Tuesday, April 14, 2020

James Ernest writes a fun memoir

I finally read Cheapass Games in Black and White by James Ernest. It’s a retrospective on the history of Cheapass Games by the founder and guy who designed almost all the games. It’s about one third commentary and two thirds reprints of ads, rules, packaging and components.

Man, I am both the target audience and the worst audience for this book. On the one hand, I really like Cheapass Games and I have a large collection of their games (that, wonderfully, doesn’t take up much space) On the other hand, that means I have the originals for almost all the images so two thirds of the book is unnecessary for me :P

(Incidentally, you can’t try and make an PnP project out of the book. You do get complete rules but you don’t get complete scans of the components. Which is fine because a hefty chunk of those components are available for download on the Cheapass website.)

Seriously. There are literally about three games discussed in the book that I don’t own. And one of them was reprinted in Chief Herman (I didn’t even know Tishai had been independently printed.) Swag was a convention only game that was turned into Captain Treasure Boots, which I do own. And I just never bought Veritas.

The memoir section are a lot of fun. James Ernest has a very conversational style, which makes him enjoyable to read. He invites us on a journey, talking about his work and life and his philosophy of about game design. Which could be dryer than a desert but he makes it sparkle.

It has been said (I’ve said it but I am far from the first) that James Ernest most legitimately punk of game designers. He isn’t defiant or out to hate parents (his or otherwise) He is simply out to do his own thing, regardless of what anyone else thinks. He is an iconoclast not for the sake of being an iconoclast but because that’s how he can get what he wants done.

Getting some insight into that  and a lot of anecdotes about that is fun. The book isn’t a how to guide to game design or game publishing but you will still learn a lot, possibly while not even noticing.

Cheapass Games in Black and White is a good read. If you have the slightest interest in Cheapass Games or game design or game, you will do yourself a favor reading it.

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